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Posts Tagged ‘gardening’

Cumulus clouds September.

As we edge toward autumn, change is in the air. The heat of summer slowly dies away, replaced by crisp, foggy mornings and cool breezes. Clouds roll in, sometimes huge, fluffy white mountains, other times layers of gray filled with rain.blackberry jelly and green beans

Leaves begin to turn color. We harvest the garden—plucking the last few ears of corn, a few fat cucumbers hiding under the leaves, red and golden cherry tomatoes, and, of course, zucchini, which is not yet ready to call it quits. Apples redden on the tree. The pantry shelves hold jars of beans, the freezer bags of corn. Blackberry jam and jelly await winter breakfasts. Our garden has done well.

Liberty applesA hush settles over the street, as children head off to school. I drink in the quiet and let it settle into my soul. September. Even the sound of it is soft and flowing, like the afternoon breeze as it rustles through the treetops. Like a treasure you hold, not in your hands, but in your heart.September sunset

And in the evening we stroll down the street as darkness falls earlier and the sun sets in a bright sky.

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Pink dogwood Pink reminds me of little girls in frilly princess dresses playing with their baby dolls. Growing up as a decidedly unfeminine girl, I’ve always preferred green and blue—or red and yellow when it comes to flowers. However, this time of year, I can look out the window while I work and see our pink dogwood in full bloom, sometimes with a bright blue sky behind it for contrast. However, even on a dull, cloudy day, the bright pink blossoms light up the yard. We had a pink dogwood in our front yard when I was a kid; I loved it then and I love it now.Wild bleeding heart flowers

Other pinks decorate the spring landscape. In our woods the wild bleeding hearts bow their purple-pink heads beneath the trees, delicate and beautiful. A few brief days and they are gone—a reminder of the transitory nature of love and life.

apple blossom budsThen there are the white pinks—the subtle pink of apple blossom buds before the little white shells of petals open, fragrant with promise. And the white rhododendron whose flowers turn pinker with age before dropping off and giving way to new green leaves. Honeysuckle and columbine. Not to mention the lavish display of cherry blossoms and the azalea by our front porch that will, in a week or two, be thick in pinkness.;ink rhododendron

Spring puts forth such a display of beauty, a reminder of rebirth, of new life, of the amazing gifts that we are given to enjoy—and to share.

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Summer has ended, but nice weather lingers on. In my garden, that means tomatoes. The plants I put in late, due to a long, wet spring, have had time to grow and produce their best crop in years. The vines are like a Christmas tree hung with red globes.

Peas are a distant memory, the pole beans were recently pulled out, and half the corn stalks lie bent to the ground, presumably demolished by a hungry raccoon family. Even my prolific zucchini plants have wilted during the cold of night. But the tomatoes spill out across each other and into the aisle, dotted with orange and red rubies that glitter in the sunshine. I munch on sun-warmed cherry tomatoes as I pick my crop. What could be tastier?

Tomatoes pile up on my kitchen counters. I slice them for sandwiches, put out bowls of cherry tomatoes for snacks, add them to recipes, but I can’t use them all up. So I pull out the canner, dusty on the back shelf, and get to work. And finally those juicy, red tomatoes fill pint jars, ready to brighten my pantry with their bright colors. Summer in a jar.

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The years just keep rolling along, and spring arrives, more or less on schedule, about this time every year–and about six months earlier or later in the southern hemisphere–moving around the world and never holding still for long. We get a couple of days of warm weather, and everyone is out mowing lawns, some for the first time this year. Pollen is in the air, fertilizing trees and flowers, bringing sneezes and congestion to the allergy-prone. Smiles spring up with the flowers and sunshine.

Dreams of vegetable gardens and flower beds stir in my head. Perhaps this year I will keep the garden weeded. Perhaps this year I will get everything planted on time. Perhaps this year…

In the springtime, all is possible. Soon enough reality will set in, and I will remember how hard it is to keep up with flowers and vegetables and, most of all, weeds. But for today, I prefer to hold on to my fantasies. Springtime is a time for dreaming.

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Fern garden

While in Pittsburgh, we visited a place any plant lover would enjoy: Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens. Located in Schenley Park, not far from my son and daughter-in-law’s house, the conservatory houses a wide variety of plants, including one whole room dedicated to ferns, another full of orchids, and a walk-through butterfly garden. Much of the garden is indoors, which was providential when a sudden thunderstorm dumped what seemed like a whole ocean of water in minutes. Fortunately, we had stepped back inside the building just before the storm hit.

just before the storm

So much rain fell that the tropical rain forest area–which apparently had open vents–had streams of water pouring down and running along the path. We ended up saving that area for last, after the rain stopped.

Orchid room

Other areas of the conservatory included a desert room, a sunken garden, an edible garden area, Palm Court, a couple of formal gardens using recycled materials, and outdoors a small Japanese garden, a children’s discovery garden, and a vegetable garden. According to the map, there is another large outdoor garden area, but we didn’t have time to see everything.

Desert room

Phipps Conservatory is an amazing place. If you ever visit Pittsburgh, I recommend checking it out.

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I went out to prune the raspberries—an annual February ritual—cutting out the old wood that bore last summer’s berries and gently bending this year’s stalks between the wires. I still needed to tie the longer ones down, but something distracted me. What was that on top of the old wooden post at the end of the berry bushes?

I moved closer to discover a miniature forest of lichens and moss covering the top of the post. Tufts of spring green moss with tiny brown threads coming up holding what I assumed to be spores. Piles of wavy green with pale green trumpets rising straight up from the middle. And pouring down the sides, curly white (and gray underneath) patches, like crumpled wrapping paper torn and strewn about the post. I went on to examine the other posts. Each carried its own special garden of lichens.

Raspberries forgotten, I raced inside for my camera. I spent the next several minutes trying my best to capture the tiny world atop the posts and wrap it into little boxes of beauty.

Nature always amazes me, most of all in the rich detail seen in even the smallest organisms. Whether in a chickadee, a swelling bud on the plum tree, or a tiny forest of lichen, the complexity—and the beauty—is more than I can even imagine.

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October Corn

We ate the last of our homegrown corn—fresh from the garden, kernels the color of sunshine and cumulus clouds. I have never eaten fresh corn on the cob in October before. What a strange year this has been!

 Usually the corn is planted in May, or the very start of June at the latest. This year we visited our son in Japan in early May. When we came home, we were met by rain, rain that continued through May, through much of June, right up to July. We always joke that good weather in western Oregon begins July 5th. This year it was actually true. We planted the corn on June 23rd, when the clouds cleared for a few brief days.

 The type of corn we generally plant, Sugar Dots, sprouts well in cool soil—perfect for May/early June planting in our area. It does not sprout as well in late June. And so it came up here and there with long bare patches between that later filled with grass and weeds. And as it slowly grew, we wondered if corn on the cob would even make it to the dinner table this year.

 Then came September, warm and beautiful for the most part, and October with few of its usual rains. Ears grew and swelled on the stalks, as the peas and beans nearby died off. And finally—ripe corn! Not enough to freeze, but enough for several nice meals. And it was very good!

What garden surprises have you experienced this year?

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